Map showing the extent of Mesopotamia. Shown are Washukanni
, Charax Spasinu
, from north to south.
Mesopotamia is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent, in modern days roughly corresponding to most of Iraq, Kuwait, the eastern parts of Syria, Southeastern Turkey, and regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders.
The Sumerians and Akkadians (including Assyrians and Babylonians) dominated Mesopotamia from the beginning of written history (c. 3100 BC) to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, when it was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire. It fell to Alexander the Great in 332 BC, and after his death, it became part of the Greek Seleucid Empire.
|The Sumerian language was the language of ancient Sumer, spoken in Southern Mesopotamia since at least the 4th millennium BC. It was gradually replaced by Akkadian as a spoken language in the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, but continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific language in Mesopotamia until the first century AD. Then, it was forgotten until the 19th century, when Assyriologists began deciphering the cuneiform inscriptions and excavated tablets left by these speakers. Sumerian is a language isolate.
The Sumerian language is the earliest known written language. It first appeared as numerical records, with symbols added to represents the things counted, which then developed into a logographic script representing the whole language, not just accounting objects. The logographic symbols were then generalized using a wedge-shaped stylus to impress the shapes into wet clay, giving rise to the name cuneiform, meaning "wedge-shape". These distinctive wedge shapes were imitated even in carved inscriptions. By ca. 2600 BC, the large set of logographic signs had been simplified into a syllabary of several hundred signs, allowing modern Assyriologists to understand many aspects of the phonology, morphology and syntax of the language.
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